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Podesta vs. Trump

The comparison between Trump and Podesta is interesting because while both are professional liars, the genius of Trump is that despite his compulsive lying, he manages at times to reveal the truth and this cannot be said of Podesta. I mean two things: First, Trump occasionally does tell the truth, as when he said recently that America is “not innocent”, and earlier that all the Presidential candidates are owned by corporations. He does this because his need for theatrical outrageousness requires that he continuously violate taboos and the truth is taboo in America; so occasionally he violates the truth taboo, whether by accident or by design. Second, his lying is so blatant and obvious that it in itself reveals a truth. It’s as if he doesn’t even try to appear truthful and so reveals the irrelevance of truth in our world. Truthfulness becomes a kind of joke, a thing that is important to haters and losers. The truth of the matter is this: when pretty much everyone in politics is a liar and everyone knows it, the strong and assertive and powerful are those that don’t pretend otherwise.

High level Democrat fixer John Podesta (the e-mail guy) recently penned a third rate op ed in the Washington Post called “Trump’s dangerous strategy to undermine reality.” In it, Podesta makes the shocking claim that Trump is worse than Podesta himself when it comes to lying: “It is more dangerous. Trump is deploying a strategy, used by autocrats, designed to completely disorient public perception. He’s not just trying to spin the bad news of the day; all politicians do that. He seeks nothing less than to undermine the public’s belief that any news can be trusted, that any news is true, that there is any fixed reality.”

Predictably, Trump’s awfulness is linked to Russia. According to Podesta, “Spinning the bad news of the day” is part of a venerable American tradition: “Our American democracy has been built on a foundation of a press free of government interference and governed by strong professional ethics. Of course, the media occasionally get stuff wrong, and whenever they do they need to put it right, but they are the foundation of an informed democratic dialogue.” By contrast, “Russians hear something on TV and assume it’s a lie.” Trump’s relentless accusations that the news media creates “fake news” replaces the American model of “spinning the bad news of the day” with the Russian model of “lying all the time”: “He’s telling us we are being lied to all the time. That has a corrosive effect, deepening public distrust of the media and other institutions at a time when they already enjoy historically low levels of confidence. We cannot let that happen.”

The comparison between Trump and Podesta is interesting because while both are professional liars, the genius of Trump is that despite or perhaps because of his compulsive lying, he manages at times to reveal the truth and this cannot be said of Podesta. I mean two things: First, Trump occasionally does tell the truth, as when he recently told a TV talking head that America is “not innocent” – just like Russia! And as when he admitted during a GOP primary debate that all the candidates are owned by corporations. More recently, Trump admitted that he isn’t really committed to the idea of an independent Palestinian state in the middle east.

These are instances of truth telling that may or may not be accidental but that is beside the point. Trump occasionally tells the truth because his need for theatrical outrageousness requires that he continuously violate taboos and the truth is taboo in America; so occasionally he violates the truth taboo, whether by accident or by design. We can call this the Reality TV model.

Second, Trump’s lying is so blatant and continuous and obvious that the lying in itself reveals a truth. It’s as if he doesn’t even try to appear truthful and so reveals the irrelevance of truth in our world. Truthfulness becomes a kind of joke, a thing that is important only to haters and losers. The truth of the matter is this: when pretty much everyone in politics and the national media is a liar and everyone knows it, the strong and assertive and powerful are those who don’t pretend otherwise.  Podesta is a hater and a loser because he pretends that we aren’t being lied to all the time; Trump is a winner because he, like American voters, knows that we really are being lied to all the time and is honest enough to admit it publically.

Is Trump wrong to say that the media is “the enemy of the people”? Well, what would you call it when, as Jeffery St. Clair puts it, “We find ourselves in the midst of a “newsgasm,” a kind of press orgy where the media spends 23 hours and 45 minutes a day obsessing on Flynn, while giving 2 minutes, maybe, to mass deportation raids or the fact that a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan just broke away from Antarctica”?

Does this mean that we live in a “post-truth world”? No, not at all. There is no such thing as a “post-truth world.” We live in the same world where humans have always lived, where the truth is hard and brutal and always wins in the end, which is why truthfulness has always been and always will be considered a moral virtue. It’s only academics and pseudo intellectuals who feel the need to constantly proclaim the dawning of a new post-something age because they need something to sell and novelty is an effective marketing strategy. The only thing new is that when a chunk of ice the size of Manhattan breaks away from Antarctica and Trump’s lies are considered more newsworthy, our inevitable collision with reality just became a lot closer.

Carl Kandutsch (ckandutsch@verizon.net) holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale University and currently owns and operates the Kandutsch Law Office (www.kandutsch.com) in Plano, Texas.

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